Thousands of keen skaters flocked to popular skating locations on Friday, forcing local officials to close roads and turn some people away because the lakes and rivers were overcrowded.
‘This is the ultimate old Hollands winter feeling,’ prime minister Mark Rutte said at his weekly post-cabinet meeting press conference. ‘I hope that people will also be able to enjoy skating this weekend, but be sensible and stick to the coronavirus rules. They also apply on the ice.’
At Zandstra Sport – which has been making skates since 1931 – the level of demand is ‘extreme’. Marco Vlap, a spokesman at the factory, says pairs of skates are flying out of the door. ‘We are seeing enormous demand,’ he says. ‘As soon as there is ice on the ponds, there’s a kind of itch and people realise they can skate again!
‘What is it with Dutch people and skating? That’s a good question. It is part of our diet from the earliest age, and we just love it. The atmosphere is always extraordinary.’
In the Hague, people took to the ice on the pond in front of the parliamentary complex, under clear blue skies. But several had to be rescued from the pond’s island on Friday afternoon, after they became stranded because of melting ice.
De Hofvijver heeft in twee maanden meer drama gezien dan in de periode 1672-2020. https://t.co/GVWyAPOJyk
— Guus Valk (@apjvalk) February 12, 2021
In Amsterdam, a city spokesman said that people are urged to be careful and follow the coronavirus rules of keeping a 1.5 metres distance and avoiding busy places.
‘We will monitor the situation, and if it gets out of hand, we could take action in the worst case. But we are asking people to be sensible and careful, and enjoy it!’ The ice is not yet thick enough to skate on canals, he added, but it is in other areas and people are urged to skate locally.
‘Corona has been a dark time and this is a light point,’ he added.
In Leiden too, skaters were out in force on the Rapenburg.
Here’s footage of a group of 20-somethings who were brave enough to start skating on the Rapenburg this morning. Hear those weird noises? Pretty sure that’s the sound of ice cracking. #schaatsen #Leiden #ijs #Elfstedentocht #elfstedentocht2021 pic.twitter.com/Pz0aA8sa23
— Brandon in the Netherlands (@BrandoninNL) February 12, 2021
But in Kinderdijk, the windmill village popular with tourists, visitors were urged to stay away and some roads were closed off to make sure locals could still get around.
‘Skate in your home town and travel by bike or walk to keep driving to a minimum,’ local council Molenland said on Twitter. Roads to the popular Naardermeer near Hilversum were also closed because of the heavy traffic.
Rotterdam city council, too, urged would-be skaters to stay away from the Bergsche Plassen and the Rotte because they were becoming overcrowded.
❄️⛸❌Kom niet meer naar de Bergsche Plassen en de Rotte om te schaatsen. Het is te druk. Verkeer wordt afgesloten.
— Hillegersberg Schiebroek (@HiS_Rotterdam) February 12, 2021
In Hattem, in Gelderland, police called on hundreds of skaters to leave the ice on the Hoemwaard lake because the water level was falling rapidly on the IJssel river, which feeds into it. This, police said, was leading to dangerous conditions.
Op last van burgemeester haalt politie in Hattem honderd schaatsers van het ijs van de Hoenwaard. IJs is volgens Rijkswaterstaat gevaarlijk door snelle daling van hoogwater in de IJssel. pic.twitter.com/fpk9b4ajRn
— Wim Eikelboom (@boomeik) February 12, 2021
The Dutch skating union KNSB also urged people to skate close to home. Some 50 of the 200 or so local ice clubs are now open and more will follow overnight, the KNSB said.
The heavy night frosts and blue skies will continue over the weekend, weather forecasters say, but by Monday the thaw will set in. By Tuesday, the temperature could be as high as 11 Celsius during the day, according to the KNMI weather bureau.
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